The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) debated last week whether to cut all ties with the National Union of Students (NUS) over comments made by President Malia Bouattia. They ultimately chose to maintain the relationship in a vote passed on Sunday 11 December.
The motion, proposed by Binyomin Gilbert, a student at Goldsmiths University of London, was debated at the annual UJS Conference held on 11 December in London.
Two members of the executive of Warwick’s own Jewish Israeli Society were in attendance.
The motion cited previously raised concerns by the presidents of 57 University Jewish Societies in April over Bouattia’s “past rhetoric” when she held the position of NUS Black Students’ Officer, whilst also raising concerns over a failure to tackle anti-Semitism.
Malia Bouattia referred to the University of Birmingham as “something of a Zionist outpost” in a blog in 2011, a comment which was condemned by the Home Affairs Select Committee as anti-Semitic earlier this year.
Referring to his last meeting with Bouattia, Josh Seitler, former UJS President, told Huffington Post: “Malia once again placed the blame back on Jewish students, suggesting that their anger was misplaced or invalid. She expressed regret that her words had been “interpreted” as anti-Semitic. She apologised for having “caused offense”.
Malia once again placed the blame back on Jewish students, suggesting that their anger was misplaced or invalid.
Josh Seitler, UJS President
“Nowhere did she apologise for what she had said, or acknowledge that only Jewish students can define anti-Semitism. Defining their identity and their oppression is their right, but Malia has taken that away from them again and again.”
When asked to comment on the motion, Warwick’s Jewish Israeli Society pointed to what Seitler had said, stating: “There is not much more to be said.”
Binyomin Gilbert told Jewish News: “I am disappointed that this motion didn’t pass. It was a key opportunity to stand up against what many Jewish students do see as a core and fundamental problem in the NUS.”
However, Josh Holt, who was elected as the new UJS President at the conference, commented: “There is so much that can be done from within the room, and we can do far less if we shout from the outside. We have to try and make change for ourselves and we are best placed to do that when we are in the room.”
We are pleased UJS will continue to work with NUS as our two organisations have a long history of standing up to racism and fascism together,
An NUS Spokesperson told the Boar: “We are pleased UJS will continue to work with NUS as our two organisations have a long history of standing up to racism and fascism together, which we are very proud of.”
“We have just launched research into Jewish students’ experience on campus and we have a whole program of work being undertaken to fight anti-Semitism on which we hope to work with UJS.”
The project was launched at the end of last month, with NUS Vice President Rob Young saying: “It’s so important we make sure universities are inclusive and welcoming to Jewish people, and students’ views are vital in helping us to identify any issues and work to resolve them.”
The vote took place on Sunday 11 December. You can read the full motion here – https://www.ujs.org.uk/pageassets/conference/motions-2016-4_12.pdf